Booker, House members introduce small farms office act

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Reps. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash.; Alma Adams, D-N.C.; and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., on Tuesday introduced the Office of Small Farms Establishment Act to create a new office within the Agriculture Department focused on ensuring that small-acreage operations have equitable access to the critical federal programs that provide farm loans, conservation funding, crop insurance, and much more.
“Small farms are the heart and soul of our agricultural landscape, contributing to our economy, food security, and the resilience of our local food supply chains,” Booker said in a news release. “It’s time we do more to ensure that all farmers, regardless of the size of their farms, have equitable access to the support they need to flourish.”
“Nearly 90% of all farms in Washington state and the vast majority of farms in the U.S. are operated by small, family farmers, but too often they lack the operational support to take full advantage of the grants and assistance programs offered by USDA,” said Strickland. “The Office of Small Farms Establishment Act would ensure the resilience of the country’s food systems, invest in minority-owned farms that are often left behind, and recognize the challenges facing small farms today.”
“Almost 2 million farms and ranches in the United States are operated by small family farmers,” said Adams. “The Office of Small Farms Establishment Act would empower these farmers with the tools they need to make the most of USDA’s grant and assistance programs.”
“Massachusetts is home to over 7,000 farms — and small farms are our agricultural backbone,” said McGovern. “Every farm ought to have access to the same resources and support no matter their scale. When every farm is given what they need to succeed, we grow closer to building more resilient local food systems for all Americans.”
Booker explained, “Key functions of the Office of Small Farms would include assessing the specific needs of small operations, evaluating the effectiveness of the USDA at serving small farms, and recommending improvements to USDA program policies, design and delivery. The office would also facilitate direct technical assistance and grants of up to $25,000 for equipment, uninsured losses, business planning assistance, conservation practice adoption, and down payments for land. In addition, an anonymous hotline would be established to enable small-scale operations to report challenges they face in accessing USDA assistance.”
The legislation proposes an annual budget of $25 million to carry out these functions, with $15 million allocated for the operation of the office and $10 million dedicated to technical assistance and grants for small-scale operations.
“The pandemic showed how vital small farms are to the resilience of our food system. Small farms play an outsized role in the country’s food security, but they do not receive the support that they need from the federal government,” said Tim Fink, policy director for the American Farmland Trust. “This office will help to level the playing field.”Booker also released a full list of organizations supporting the bill.
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